Friday, November 6

Reader Submitted Lyric - Chris Sexton - Let's Go Back

Reader Submitted Lyric - Chris Sexton - Let's Go Back

Hello Songwriter Nation!

Today we're going to try something a little different and go over a reader submitted lyric. Thanks to all who submitted. I ended up choosing this one from our friend Chris Sexton up in PA!

First…here’s the lyrics, then we'll dig into it, see if we can tighten it up!

Let’s Go Back
Chris Sexton

(verse)
The old rhododendron leans toward the window, hiding from the afternoon sun

Offering me protection as I stand in the basement doing all our laundry ‘til it’s done
My hand is reaching for the old wicker basket when something shiny catches my eye
A picture of two lovers on a honeymoon vacation smiling without having to try

Easy, simple, magical, pure
That’s how we looked when love mattered more

(chorus)
Let’s go back, back when we lived in our favorite jeans

Let’s go back, I’ll be your homecoming queen
Let’s go back, back to that first kiss, when we were just strangers
And our hearts were beating like we were in danger
We’ll be who we were, only better, let’s go back

(verse)
I wish I had bottled the smell of that coffee from your kitchen in that old college town

I’d open it up and breathe in completely filling up my lonely ‘til it drowns

Easy, faithful, magical, sure
That’s how it felt when love mattered more

(chorus)
Let’s go back, back when we lived in our favorite jeans

Let’s go back, I’ll be your homecoming queen
Let’s go back, back to that first kiss, when we were just strangers
And our hearts were beating like we were in danger
We’ll be who we were, only better, let’s go back

(bridge)
So put on that coffee, I’ll put down this shirt

Let’s pull back those covers and end all this hurt

(chorus)
Let’s go back, back when we lived in our favorite jeans

Let’s go back, I’ll be your homecoming queen
Let’s go back, back to that first kiss, when we were just strangers
And our hearts were beating like we were in danger
We’ll be who we were, only better, let’s go back


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The first thing I want to look at is the power positions of the verses and bridge. Let’s see how well they tell the story of the song...


The old rhododendron leans toward the window, hiding from the afternoon sun
A picture of two lovers on a honeymoon vacation smiling without having to try

I wish I had bottled the smell of that coffee from your kitchen in that old college town
I’d open it up and breathe in completely filling up my lonely ‘til it drowns

So put on that coffee, I’ll put down this shirt
Let’s pull back those covers and end all this hurt


The first thing I’ll say, is that I really like the idea behind this song. The couple wanting to go back to what was good, but notice that in the opening verse, the old rhododendron gets the most attention, and not the couple. It’s a great line, but I don’t think it should be in the opening position. The characters and their situation should be there...at least the singer. A better opening line would be about standing in the basement doing the laundry. Laundry isn’t as pretty as a rhododendron (and much easier to spell!) but it is real, and again, it introduces a character.

Second verse power positions are fine. I’m kind of iffy with using “that” to describe anything in a lyric, unless it is previously mentioned in the lyric. Describing the old college town as “that college town” doesn’t feel honest to me...you’d never say that in real life to somebody...

Hey honey, remember when we lived in that old college town?

It’s fake sentimental. It’d be much more powerful, real, and honest, if you used the real name of the town.

Hey honey, remember when we lived in Somerville?
Our apartment was so small that our shirts constantly smelled like coffee from our tiny kitchen

Our clothes smell too much like Bounce and Downy now
I should have bottled that smell to put in a batch of our darks every now and then

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Taking Ownership

Here’s another cool little tool to add to your bag of tricks. Turn your “the” of your songs into moments of ownership.

The old rhododendron...becomes “my” old rhododendron
The old wicker basket...becomes “my” old wicker basket

“My” could also be: our, their, your, etc.


Old Habits

Speaking of old rhododendrons and old wicker baskets...songwriters love to use the word “old” when describing objects. The problem is “old” is completely relative and in some ways is description neutral. For “old” to have any real effect it needs some kind of qualifier.

Change “old” into something more specific that the object actually is.

The waxy rhododendron
The thirsty rhododendron
The senile rhododendron (“senile” projects “old” without using old!)

The unraveling whicker basket
The stiff whicker basket
The tan whicker basket
The arthritic whicker basket

...the more specific you are, the more universal the description becomes. It’s sort of counter intuitive, but it works.


Verbinator

Describing objects with specifics is great, but if you REALLY want to inject power into your descriptions, look for your verbs. Great verbs are much cooler than great nouns.

The old rhododendron leans toward the window, hiding from the afternoon sun

My old rhododendron stumbles toward the window, squinting from the afternoon sun

My old rhododendron squints toward the window, cowering  from the afternoon sun

...I’m just brainstorming here, you’ll be able to find something much better.  Is there a way to connect the plant with the sun? If you were a plant and the sun was shining on you, what would you do?



The Bridge

“That” is used again to describe the coffee in the bridge...put on THAT coffee. It just doesn’t sit quite right. Put on the coffee. Put on some coffee. :)

:)


The Chronological Chorus

I love the detail in the chorus, but I’d arrange it to be more chronological, let the objects tell a story within your story, that way they become more like milestones, instead of objects.

Here’s the original...

Let’s go back, back when we lived in our favorite jeans
Let’s go back, I’ll be your homecoming queen
Let’s go back, back to that first kiss, when we were just strangers
And our hearts were beating like we were in danger
We’ll be who we were, only better, let’s go back


I’d start with the kiss, homecoming, favorite jeans...

Let’s go back, back to that first kiss, when we were just strangers
And our hearts were beating like we were in danger
Let’s go back, I’ll be your homecoming queen
Let’s go back, back when we lived in our favorite jeans
We’ll be who we were, only better, let’s go back

The internal story become is how the couple became comfortable. It feels more like a progression.


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Thanks for your willingness to put yourself out there Chris. Good luck with this. It really is a charming idea.

I hope the rest of you see ideas for you to tune up your own songs.

Now go write something charming.

~Shane




1 comment:

Douglas said...

Thanks Chris for being the first to dare to put your song through the wringer! I still don't dare. A lot of great images in your writing Chris! Love it!

Excellent ideas and critique. Great job Shane!